How did BGDM come to exist?
While attending Good Pitch New York in October 2015, Iyabo Boyd was shocked: though the majority of documentary events (at the time) were predominantly white, she found herself surrounded by so many other documentary professionals who were also black women! She recognized the usual suspects (Tabitha Jackson, N’Jeri Eaton, Sonya Childress, Rahdi Taylor), but the multitude of new faces sent a rush of excitement through her. During the event, Iyabo approached each woman, introducing herself and wrangling them to join her for a drink afterwards. By the end of the event, about a dozen black women gathered at a nearby bar, each of them equally thrilled to be in each other’s presence. We took a picture to commemorate the occasion.
That night, Iyabo posted it on Facebook with the tagline “First meeting - Black Girls Doc Mafia”. The post blew up with Likes and excited comments from the doc community. It also inspired South Asian filmmakers Farihah Zaman and Senain Keshgi to form a “Desi Girls Doc Mafia” of over 25 South Asian filmmakers (plus Iyabo) in less than 24 hours! Iyabo quickly realized we were more powerful together than apart and suggested a name change to “Brown Girls Doc Mafia,” combining our efforts and opening up the potential for all women and non-binary people of color to build community together. The group operated underground for two years and grew exponentially with each member inviting someone they knew. After going public at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and now with over 3,300 members all over the world, the rest is history.
Are you a nonprofit 501(c)3?
How do I become a member?
Potential members must self-identify as a person of color; as a woman, gender nonconforming/non-binary, or trans individual; and as a documentary professional filmmaker or industry stakeholder. To become a member, go to our private Facebook group and fill out a short questionnaire. If you aren’t on Facebook, please email BGDM@browngirlsdocmafia.com to inquire about joining our listserv and database. Please also seek us out in person at a variety of documentary events and festivals as a way to build community in conjunction with your membership application. You can also track us on our public Facebook page and Instagram.
Can gender nonconforming/non-binary and trans people of color be a part of BGDM?
Yes! Gender nonconforming/non-binary and trans people of color working in documentary are encouraged to become active members of our community. BGDM strives to be inclusive and to actively challenge the binary gender systems that oppress us all. We are continuously working on ways to improve our support of these communities.
How can I find BGDM members to hire, track, or collaborate with?
BGDM is full of creative, intelligent, and hard working filmmakers and industry stakeholders. We are currently building a member database for the public, so please sign up on our mailing list to be alerted when it launches in the coming months (ETA March 2020). This public database will be searchable by skill set, interests, geography, experience level, languages spoken, and other identity demographics. Our hope is that the public will use this resource to find candidates to hire, creatives to collaborate with, potential grantees to track, expert speakers to book on panels, and more.
In the meantime, you can contact BGDM@browngirlsdocmafia.com if you have an opportunity you want to share with our community or would like some member recommendations. If you know a BGDM member personally, feel free to ask them to post a job opportunity on our Facebook page. Members can vet organizations and postings and share at their individual discretion.
How can I be a better ally to POC women and non-binary doc professionals and support BGDM overall?
Thanks for asking! Here are our thoughts on ways to be a better ally:
- Everyone has privileges that they should interrogate and process. If you are white and working in documentary, we ask that you please interrogate and process your understanding of privilege, but do so away from people of color. It is incredibly difficult, exhausting, and often traumatizing for POC to be called upon to facilitate this exploration for white people. Please do the work to seek out helpful resources, and build conversations with other white folks who are also actively engaging with their identities and are looking for ways to improve their impact on the culture of the documentary field and society overall.
- Actively seek out friendship, collaboration, and professional services amongst women and non-binary people of color on a consistent basis, not only when you need to staff up with diverse candidates.
- Find ways to uplift the voices and visions of women and non-binary doc professionals of color in all creative and professional contexts. Note that uplifting may need to manifest itself as stepping back or aside, or relinquishing your power, access, or opportunity to someone else.
- Once you’ve made some progress in interrogating your privilege and when you’ve organically cultivated friends and work colleagues of color—and once you’ve gained their trust and mutual respect—then you can seek their counsel and talk to them about the diversity challenges you’re seeing on your set, in the office, or on your tracking list. It’s important that you learn how to recognize the issues yourself, take the step to speak out against them, and do the work to create meaningful change that is informed by the needs that people of color have expressed.
- Don’t leave it up to people of color or women and non-binary individuals to question why an event, conversation, or pool of applicants isn’t diverse, and don’t leave it up to us to do something about it. Please be accountable for your/the field’s intentions, actions, and mistakes. Please step up to take responsibility when it’s the right thing to do, find a genuine way to apologize and reduce harm, and collaborate with this community to move forward. Then keep engaging - consistency and honest organic connection over long periods of time is key.
- Note that the work of radical change and true shifts in culture require everyone to be patient, flexible, and, at times, uncomfortable. Please be energetic, focused, and excited to meet these challenges. Listen deeply!
- Overall: Check your privilege, be genuine, be mindful, plan ahead, do the work, be outspoken for this community, be flexible, seek council, and hold yourself and others like you accountable!
How to directly support BGDM:
- Befriend, collaborate, and hire our members! Follow our public Facebook page to learn about the public events we’ll be at.
- Use our member database to build your roster of filmmakers to track and support, crews to build, fellowships to fill, programmers to hire, etc.
- Invite us to your film festival or doc event! Offer support for our members with travel/accommodation needs, ask us to be on panels (and not just the one’s about diversity!), connect us to your industry delegates on the ground, and make us feel welcome.
- Reach out to us to build a mutually beneficial partnership or custom program.
- Donate to BGDM yourself, pitch us to funders you are connected to and please send funding opportunities our way!
- If you are a funder, distributor, programmer, or other industry stakeholder, make yourself available to meet with our members to build relationships and offer them access, resources and support they might not otherwise receive.